Saturday, December 29, 2007

Thou shalt not covet another church -- but if thou does . . .

Over the years, I've had a number of friends ask why they don't get more respect in this conference.

"Maybe you're getting all the respect you deserve?" I'll say.

"Then why do I get all kinds of calls to pastor big churches in other conferences?" they'll reply. "It's only in this conference I get calls to small or middling-size churches -- the kind of churches I'm already pastoring. So why does everybody else see all kinds of potential in me that they don't see here in Oregon?"

It's a good question -- though it's not an easy one to answer. The Office Brethren have never made it clear just exactly what criteria they use in selecting pastors. Then too, pastors are not supposed to admit they've ever lusted after a bigger church.

(And for the record: I'm happy with the church I'm pastoring now. I've never been tempted to pastor another church. I've never wanted to pastor a bigger church. And I know for a fact that the moon is made of green cheese.)

But with another pastors' meeting coming up soon, I'm sure to get asked this question again -- so here's my best answer:

Reason #1: Most calls in this conference are for small to middling churches because most of the churches in this conference are small to middling churches. There are roughly 140 churches in the Oregon Conference. Roughly a third have an average attendance between 100 and 200; only 10% have an average attendance greater than that. If you want to pastor a big church in Oregon, in other words, the odds are against you.

Reason #2: Most calls to big churches will be to churches outside this conference because most big churches are outside this conference. I'm too lazy to do a similar analysis of church sizes in other conferences -- but even if the conferences in this division only average five big churches each (i.e. churches with more than 200 in attendance) . . . well, even that means there's at least twenty big churches out there for every one here in Oregon.

Reason #3: Most calls to big churches go to pastors who aren't so well known as you. I'm moving out on a limb here -- but over the years, I've seen how one strong objection by anyone is usually enough to get you thrown off the list of candidates for a big church pastorate. Now the more people who know you, the more likely it is that somebody will take exception to you . . . which is another way of saying that people from out of conference have an built-in advantage: nobody local knows them well enough to dislike them, and nobody who dislikes them is local.

Okay, so does all this mean you have absolutely no hope of pastoring a big church in this conference?

Yes, it does -- so stop your complaining and learn to enjoy the church you have.

But if you're still hankering after a bigger church, then let me suggest four things -- any one of which might help:
  1. Baptize a lot of people (i.e. more than twenty in a year).
  2. Serve as an associate pastor in a big church.
  3. Get a doctorate in ministry (though this will probably be more helpful in getting calls outside this conference).
  4. Take that call to the big church in another conference . . . then hope something similar opens up here in Oregon, ten to twenty years from now.


Marty said...

funny, sounds about right though.

wanida said...

you are a hoot! Thanks. That made my day.